« PreviousContinue »
circumstance—“that the Symptoms of a demoniacal possession are the same with those of some natural disorders.”—But now, if evil spirits were permitted to disturb the vital functions of the human frame, whether in the solids, the fluids, or in both together; can we have any conception how this could be effected without causing or occasioning, in supernatural disorders, the very same SYMPTOMS which accompany natural maladies ? These Symptoms, in both cases, must arise from the disturbance of the material Frame, and can arise no otherwise ; and those disturbances, whether produced by a spiritual Agent, or by material causes, must produce the same sensible effects. Madness, for instance, whether occasioned by the malignity of an intelligent Agent ab extra, or by discordant humours ab intra, will be still madness, and accompanied with the same Symptoms. That appearance, therefore, which must accompany a Demoniacal possession, IF REAL, can never by any rules of logic be converted into a reasonable argument for the falsehood of such a possession.
It is worth observation, that one of the Evangelists being a Physician, our learned Critic, by a very becoming partiality, prefers him to the rest.
UKE (he tells us) being superior to them for the purity and accuracy of his expression, when there is occasion to speak of distempers, or of the cure of them; and is more particular in reciting all the miracles of our Saviour in relation to healing, than the other Evangelists are.*
All this is true; and yet St. Luke speaks the very same language with the rest concerning demoniacal possessions. Now if the Gospel Demoniacs were men only labouring under natural disorders, a Physician, by his deeper insight into Nature, with the assistance of inspiration to boot, was very likely to have discovered the mistake ; and for the glory of his art as likely to have recorded it : especially as the detection of it was the overturning a hurtful Superstition. And we know how ready these benevolent Gentlemen have ever been to detect VULGAR ERRORS.—Not to insist, at present, that St. Luke was guided, in so good a work, by a stronger passion than honour for his profession, as a Physician, that is, a love for truth, as an Evangelist.
This, as we say, must have been the case in diabolic possessions, where the Body only was thus supernaturally affected. Yet in those, where the mind alone, or equally with the body, suffered by these disorders, I confess, we might expect some extraordinary marks or symptoms of supernatural Agency, when it was for the purpose of the EVIL SPIRIT to display his Power. Here the immaterial principle within us affords larger room, and more conveniences to be acted upon, by an exterior agent : although the irregular efforts of the mind itself are so wonderful as to be frequently mistaken for a foreign agency.
Yet this not withstanding, there are, in these mental disorders, powers exhibited, that can never be mistaken, by a careful observer, for its own.
Some of which, are, in fact, recorded to have been exerted ; in order, as it were, to confute these learned men, who seem to think we ought to reject all diabolic possessions but such as are ascertained by Symptoms supernatural.
An instance of such we have in thet Damsel possessed with the Spirit of DIVINATION, who brought her Master much gain by SOOTHSAYING.
This Woman, Paul dispossessed, and so spoiled her Master's trade ; who thereupon raised a fierce persecution against the Apostle.
The symptoms of Divination and Soothsaying, that is, telling of things absent, and foretelling things future, were certainly supernatural; and, for
• “ History of Physic," part i. pp. 223—225. + Acts xvi. 16, et seq.
such, must be acknowledged by the Objectors ; who I hope will not yet forget the Personages, they have assumed, of Believers : against whom only this reasoning on the Demoniacs is directed and addressed.
Having now seen what these learned Writers have to oppose to my System of the Gospel-Demoniacs :
I crave leave, in the next place, to bespeak their attention to what I have to urge against theirs. Enough hath been said to shew that this is no trifling or unimportant Question.
The untoward consequences being these, which unavoidably follow the Concession, that Jesus and his Disciples did only accommodate themselves to the fanciful and superstitious opinions of the times, in placing natural distempers in the visionary Class of Supernatural.
1. Unbelievers may conclude (and by too many they will be supposed not to conclude amiss) that much advantage is hereby gained over the Evidences of our Faith. While it is believed, from the testimony of the Evangelists, that Jesus cast out Devils, and healed such as were possessed with them, that plausible subterfuge against his miraculous cures, which pretends that the relief afforded *
(Bishop Hurd having referred the Student, for the completion of this note, to bichop
Warbur oi's Se.'mon “ on the fall of Satan," that portion of his argumentativa
which he omitiel is here reprinted.] Unbelievers may think (and, by too many, they will be supposed not to think amiss) that they get great advantage over the Evidences of our Faith, by this concession.--While it is believed that evil Demons were subject to the power of Christ from the testimony of the Evangelists, who tell us that he cast out Devils, and healed those possessed with them, that plausible subterfuge against his miraculous cures, which supposes the relief afforded to be the effect of a stroNG IMAGINATION, is entirely cut off. For, however the motion of the blood and spirits might be accelerated by the agitations of a mind thus unhinged ; the Devil would still keep his hold, and be nowise affected by it. But when once his agency is removed, as a groundless and superstitious terror, these men will think themselves not altogether unable to deal with the miraculous cures of the Gospel on our own principles. They will recount to us the astonishing effects of the Imagination in pregnant women, and in atrabilare and melancholy subjects ; supported by cases recorded in the writings of Physicians of the greatest authority and credit.+ They will remind us of the cures worked by Greatrix the Stroker, in the memory of our Fathers; and of those performed at the Tomb of Abbé Paris, in our own. They will tell us of a learned French Physician, I who was so struck with this astonishing force of the human Imagination, that he thought it capable of working Miracles, or effecting things supernatural. Nay, they will pretend to account for all this, by the mechanism of the body, unaccountably subject to the delusions of the mind, when unduly agitated either by sensation or reflection. Nor has any one borne a stronger testimonys to these amazing delusionsthan the learned person whose objections to the Gospel Demoniacs we have just now examined: which may seem the more strange, as the testimony is borne by one who, at the same time, expresses his surprize that Divines should contend so eagerly for this triumph of Christ over Demons, as if something were wanting to demonstrate his power, when exercised only over natural diseases.* Without doubt Divines may contend for it on that principle, without being laughed at. And I have written to little purpose, if this discourse does not prove that something would have been wanting to demonstrate, if not the power, yet the assumed character of Jesus, had it been exercised only over natural diseases. So that it appeared to me that what they contended for was highly useful ; to cut off a subterfuge to which Unbelievers have had recourse, and which this learned Physician's just account of the force of the Imagination contributes to support.-How pertinent the inference may be, which Unbelievers draw from this force of the Imagination, it is not my purpose, at present, to inquire. The mischief to Religion is not inconsiderable, that diseased Nature hath afforded these PHILOSOPHERs a handle for any inference at all.
• See Sermon On the Fall of Satan, which completes this Note.--R. W. FIENUS De Viribus Imaginationis.
1 AUGERIUS FERRERICS. Of whom Thuapus says,
“ Medicinam professus, quam et felicissimè et sumno judicio fecit.”Hist. lib. lxxxix.
§ “Quid mirabilius iis, quæ in Graviditatibus non raro contis. gere videmus ? Fæmina in utero gestans, si forte quid appetiverit, et frustra sit, interdum rei concupitæ figuram quandam, aut similitudinem, in hac aut illa corporis parte, fætui suo imprimit. Imo, quod majus est, et prodigii instar, subita partis alicujus
But this is not the worst. There is an unavoidable inference to be drawn from this anti-demoniac system when proved, more fatal to the truth of the Gospel than that other. It is an unquestioned fact, that the Evangelic History of the Demoniacs hath given occasion to the most scandalous frauds, and sottish superstitions, throughout almost every age of the Church ; the whole trade of Exorcisms, accompanied with all the mum. mery of frantic and fanatic agitations, having arisen from thence.
Now, were the Gospel Demoniacs really possessed, the honour of Religion is safe ; and no more affected by these ingrafted frauds and follies of the Church of Rome, than is the Law of Moses by their Inquisitorial Murders, committed under cover of God's penal Statutes against Jewish Idolaters. If men will turn the Truths of God to the support of their crimes and follies; the sacred Oracles will receive no attaint from such their malice and perversity.
But were the Possessions, recorded in the Gospel, imaginary; and Demoniacs only a name for the naturally diseased ; and that yet, Jesus and his A postles, instead of rectifying the People's follies and superstitions on this head, chose rather toʻinflame them, by assuring certain of the distempered that they were really possessed by evil Spirits over whom the name of Christ had power and authority :+ if this, I say, were the case, I should tremble for the consequence : for then would Jesus and his Disciples, who were sent to propagate the TRUTH, appear to be answerable for all the mischief which the rivetting of this superstition in the minds of men, produced in after-ages : for there is not a clearer conclusion in moral science, than that He, who commits a premeditated fraud, is answerable for the evil which necessarily or naturally proceedeth from it. So little did the learned Physician, with whom we have to do, see into the Casuistry of this question, when he took it for granted, that our contending for the reality of demoniacal possessions makes the Gospel, and us, its Ministers who thus interpret it, answerable for all the tricks of the Church of Rome, which rise upon the avowal of it.*
læsione perterrita matre, ipsa illa pars in infante noxam sentit, et nutrimenti defectu marcessit. Scio hujusmodi omnes bistorias à medicis nonnullis, quoniam, qui talia fieri possint, haud percipiunt, in dubium vocari. At multa, quæ ipse vidi, exempla mibi hac in re scrupulum omnem ademerunt. Tam stupenda autem est facultatis imaginandi cis, ut non minus falsæ quam veræ imagines afficiant, ubi mens iis assidue sit addicta. Id enim in mulieribus, quæ sagæ dicuntur, usu comperimus, quæ consimili mentis errore captæ, cum Dæmonibus non tantum consuetudinem habere, sed et pacta cum iis se idivisse, sæpe imaginantur ; idque animo adeo obstinato, ut etiam in judicium vocatæ, se facinorum quæ nunquam perpetrarerint, reas confiteantur, cum ob ea ipsa jam mortis supplicium subituræ sint. Proinde omnibus notum est, quam mirabilibus modis in melancholicis mens perturbatur,'' &c.--Pp. 70–72.
“ Sæpe quidem mirari soleo, cur fidei nostræ Antistites Dæmonas in scenam producere tantopere contendant, quo scilicet divinum Christi numen de victis hisce infernis hostibus triumphos agat. An divinam Christi virtutem gravissimorum morborum sanationes, jussu illius momento temporis peracta, minus patefaciunt; quam malorum Geniorum ex hominum corporibus expulsiones ?”- Præf. p. vii. | Matt. xvii. 15.
On the contrary, from what hath been here said, it evidently appears, that the Opinion of the Accommodators (who suppose Jesus and his Disciples took advantage of a favourable superstition), and not the Opinion of those Divines who hold Gospel-Demonianism to be real, is the very thing which brings this opprobrium on the first Propagators of our holy Faith.
Nor can that reason which is sometimes given for permitting supersti. tious errors, (although this were, which it is not, of the number of such as might be suffered to hold their course) have any weight in this case; namely, the difficulty or danger in eradicating them.
Danger there could be none, from the nature of things. For, to remove the false terrors concerning this Enemy of mankind, could never indispose men to embrace their Saviour and Redeemer.
As little difficult had it been to eradicate so pernicious an error, how deeply soever rooted in the popular superstition. For when they saw Jesus cure all diseases with a word, and the pretended Demoniac as easily as the rest, nothing could withstand the Authority which informed them of their mistake; and assured them that this demonianism, like the rest, was altogether a natural distemper. On the contrary, many favourable prejudices would soon arise on the side of so authentic an Instructor.
From the whole, therefore, of what hath been here offered in favour of the obvious sense of my Text, the attentive hearer will, I presume, be inclined to acquiesce in the antient interpretation of this part of the Gospel-History ; and be ready to agree with the first Disciples of Christ, in their pious exultation, when they returned, from their Mission, with joy ; saying, Lord, through thy name, even the Devils are subject unto us.t
• “ Erroris patrocinio non indiget veritas, ati nec vultus natura nitidus fueum requirit. Et certum est, opinionem istam, quæ jam per multa sæcula invaluit, de potentia ad cor. pora mentesque humanas vexandas dæmonibus adhuc permissa, variis astutorum hominum præstigiis, cum maximo rei Christianæ damno et opprobrio ansam præbuisse. Quis non merito irridet solennes istos Romæ pontificum ritus, quibus exercitantur, ut loqui amant, Dæmoniaci ? - Verum istæ præstigiæ, quantumvis oculis et mentibus igoara plebis illudant; paulo tamen sagaciores non modo offendunt, sed revera ipsis Docent. Hi enim, dolo perspecto, ad impietatem proni ducuntur.”- Praf.p. iv. t Luke x. 17.
Africans, deductions from their know.
ledge of a future state, notwithstand-
call of God to him and his family, ii. ii. 257
Alliance of Church and State, mutual
damental article in, 349
183, 200—-political, 201—sacred, 203
- reason for discrediting the notion of
-invention of, prior to the time of
ses from an improvement on the
America, remarks on the religion of the
struction conveyed by them in the good nursery for philosophers and
guage of, ii. 388
Anatomy, practised and studied by the
ancient and modern times, i. 243 Ancients, inquiry into their opinions
soul, i. 478
Animal food, Sir Isaac Newton's opinion
descent into hell, i. 235-inquiry into refuted, ii. 286
worship, origin of, accounted
wards the animals themselves, 226